Behind the Scenes

Over the coming months we would like to introduce you to some of our auxillary team, who support Children’s Books Ireland and the work we do nationwide. First up is one of our fantastic Book Doctors, Louise Gallagher, who we asked to pop into the office for an informal Q&A (that’s her in the photo, holding a classic title from her book collection … we think she may be a little bit obsessed with a certain Irish illustrator!).

Louise Gallagher rediscovered the magic of children’s books when she was supposed to be far too old to enjoy them, but hasn’t let that stop her spending as much time around them as possible. She even went back to college to learn how to talk about them with other adults (using extremely long words), but finds that you often need to talk to children about these things to hear any sense. Her dream job would be talking to people about how amazing children’s books are every day, so being a CBI Book Doctor is pretty much the best gig ever.

When you are not being a Book Doctor, whats your day job?

I am a full-time PhD student with Government of Ireland Research Postgraduate funding (from the Irish Research Council).

Why are you passionate about children’s books?

I was a big reader as a child and devoured every book I could get my hands on. This continued in to adulthood, but it wasn’t until I began working in a public library that I rediscovered the wonder of children’s literature. There is something intrinsically magical and fascinating about books written for children; from their story structure, to their character development; their settings to their physical appearance and design. Board books, picturebooks, pop-up books, comics, chapter books and novels; each is carefully crafted to appeal to that most enigmatic of readers – the child. Often genre-confounding, boundary-breaking and highly innovative, there is something wild and intensely addictive about the creativity found in children’s books; something that makes you want to furvently push them in to people’s hands saying, “Have you read this? You must read this, it’s amazing, it’s astounding, you’ve never read anything like it!” Every year there is something new – some publisher or author or illustrator or designer producing exciting and ground-breaking books, objects of beauty filled with stories the likes of which we’ve never seen before. What other category or genre of literature can claim as much?

 

What has been your most memorable Book Clinic to date and why?

The most memorable Book Clinic I’ve done would have to be the Galway Book Clinic for the Babaro Festival in 2015. Our location was the Fisheries Tower in Galway city which is this fantastic building in the middle of the river. My office was at the very top with a fantastic view of the quay, and a fabulous stuffed trout, who I named Bob, in a case behind my desk. The children who came to see the Book Doctor were extremely enthusiastic about books and libraries.  I even received a very special drawing by a young boy who had been looking forward to seeing the Book Doctor all week – I still have it on my fridge at home.

The clinic was extremely busy, there were so many children I don’t think we stopped once over the course of the session! I love to see children so engaged with children’s books, enthusiastic about reading and libraries, and excited creating stories themselves. I recall I had one girl who came up with a book idea while we were chatting – when “The Pug in Uggs” finally gets published I hope I at least get a mention in the acknowledgements!

 

Why do you feel Book Clinics are important for young readers?

Some children have the opportunity to engage with books, and adults who know about children’s books, in their every day life – at school, at home, at a local library and so on. But so many don’t get those opportunities, and miss out on the chance to have someone listen to what they have to say and help them find the right book for them in that moment. Giving children the opportunity to have their voices heard, by someone who both knows about children’s books, and cares about finding the best book for each child, is an important step in creating independent, engaged and enthusiastic readers. Book Clinics pair an expert in children’s literature with a child in need of guidance, thus helping to sustain their interest in books and help forge new connections to literature they might not have encountered otherwise.

What books / authors / illustrators are you looking forward to reading this year?

I’m excited about the new Kate DiCamillo book, “Raymie Nightingale” out in April, and also intrigued by a new middle grade book by picture book maker Peter Brown, called “The Wild Robot” out in May. Chris Riddell will have a new Ottoline book out, “Ottoline and the Purple Fox” which I’ll definitely be picking up, and there should be a new illustrated edition of Neil Gaiman’s “Odd and the Frost Giants” which I’m dying to see. Deirdre Sullivan’s YA title “Needlework” is just coming out and I can’t wait to read it, and Dave Rudden’s much anticipated “Knights of the Borrowed Dark” could see the blossoming of a brand new Irish bestselling series in March. There’s a new Emily Gravett out in April called “Tidy” and finally “The Hunting of the Snark” illustrated by Chris Riddell is out in June, yay!

 

Where is your local library and what is the best thing about it?

I’m a bit spoilt as I have a number of libraries to chose from! Because I’m studying for a PhD I have access to the library at Trinity College Dublin, which is one of the most amazing libraries I’ve ever been to. It’s a copyright library which means it receives a copy of every book printed in the UK and Ireland to keep in storage. So I have access to nearly every modern book I could ever want! However, if I want to get a more recently published book, particularly YA or children’s literature, I go to the Central Library in the Ilac Centre in Dublin. They have a brillian children’s and YA adult collection, as well as graphic novels, and I can always find what I’m looking for there. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable, and enthusiastic about getting readers of all ages through the door.

 

Do you have a favourite bookshop and where is it?

I have two favourite bookshops if that’s allowed! The first is The Gutter bookshop in Templebar, Dublin. They have such a wonderful selection of children’s books and they’re independent too, which I think is really important. They’re extremely supportive of local writers and especially children’s authors, and the shop always has a lovely atmosphere. The other would be Chapters in Dublin – it’s probably down to the sheer size of the shop that attracts me to it, with it’s two floored layout of second-hand books upstairs, new books downstairs. I have lost HOURS of time and considerable amounts of hard-earned money in there, but I never seem to regret it!

 

What are your personal top five book reccomendations in the different age groups?

Inis 0 – 2

1 Herve Tullet (Anything and everything!)

2 Fast and Slow by Britta Teckentrup

3 Leslie Petricelli (I usually have Hop! Hop! to hand)

4 Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

5 Any board books written/illustrated by Helen Oxenbury (Farmer Duck, Tickle Tickle, So Much, Clap Hands etc.)

 

Inis 2 – 4

1 Tyrannosaurus Drip by Julia Donaldson and David Roberts

2 Little Mouse’s Big Book of Beasts by Emily Gravett

3 Have You Seen My Monster by Steve Light

4 This Book Just Ate My Dog by Richard Byrne

5 There Are Cats in This Book by Viviane Schwarz

 

Inis 5 – 8

1 The Fantastic World of Tom Gates by Liz Pichon

2 The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

3 Pugs of the Frozen North by Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve

4 Nightmare Club series by Annie Graves

5 Danger is Everywhere by David O’Doherty and Chris Judge

 

Inis 9 – 11

1 The Edge Chronicles by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell (upper age limit)

2 The Goth Girl series by Chris Riddell

3 Timmy Failure series by Stephen Pastis

4 Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell

5 Pucker Power by Kevin Stevens and Sheena Demspey

 

Inis 12 – 14

1 Prim series by Deirdre Sullivan

2 The Immortal Nicholas Flamel series by Michael Scott

3 Wonder by RJ Palacio

4 Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix

5 His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

 

Inis YA

1 Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness

2 The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

3 A Crack in Everything by Ruth Frances Long

4 Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

5 The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

 

Inis Non Fiction

1 Pirate Diary by Pratt and Chris Riddell

2 Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill

3 A Time Traveller’s Guide to Life, the Universe & Everything by Ian Flitcroft and Britt Spencer

4 Before After by Anne-Margot Ramstein and Matthias Arégui

5 DK (Dorling Kindersley) Readers (perfect for newly independent readers who love facts!)

Who are currently your top five favourite illustrators?

1 Shaun Tan (Australian)

2 Chris Riddell (British)

3 Simona Ciraolo (Italian)

4 Emily Gravett (British)

5 Emily Hughes (Hawaiian)

 

Louise Gallagher has an M.Phil in Children’s Literature and is a Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholar at the School of English, Trinity College Dublin. She is a section editor of Children’s Books Ireland’s annual Inis Reading Guide and a regular contributor of reviews and articles to Inis magazine, Children’s Books Ireland’s flagship publication. She is a CBI Book Doctor and has previously worked as a Library Assistant with Kildare Library & Arts Service.